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Jodorowsky’s Dune

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We couldn’t get anything good ready for podcast, so “enjoy” a recording session with the microphone and digital mixer set-up that came after we were talking into cheap headsets but before we got quality equipment, not that Frank didn’t waste hundreds of dollars on this non-returnable crap. It’s difficult to hear, which is why it was shelved, but in a pinch this golden turd will have to doo. Most of the discussion centers on the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, about the aborted 1970s loose gonzo adaptation of Frank Herbert’s revered science fiction novel. About three-quarters of an hour in, we drift off into random gab involving such disparate flicks as Wayne’s World. The really funny stuff involved masturbation shame and otherwise going dark, but things got a little personal and we started dropping each other’s real names and those of ex-girlfriends and even penis nicknames, so Conservative Mac made us take all that out. Your loss!

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8 thoughts on “Jodorowsky’s Dune”

  1. Dig in true believers!

    I could talk forever about Dune, one of my all time favorite sci-fi books. The original series by Frank Herbert is 6 books deep but you really peek with the first. Each subsequent book gets a smidge worse.

    It is a messianic tale of how Paul Atreides becomes the Kwisatz Haderach, the universal super-being, cosmically aware and able to bring miracles to the arid world of Arrakis. But it is heavily layered with politics, genetic engineering, mind-expanding drugs, religion, giant god-like worms, and secret societies. It is one of those books so immersed in its own culture that it comes with a glossary.

    Unfortunately, when you have a dense, multilayered, complex novel you simply can’t easily bring it to a film world without cutting corners or being incredibly long.

    The Lynch film captures some of the broad strokes nicely. But having Paul teach the Fremen how to use ‘Weirding modules’ (sonic weapons) instead of teaching them the ‘weirding ways’ of martial combat seemed like a copout. Mr Fixit is right that the extended version, which includes the scene where a baby worm is drowned to produce the ‘water of life’ is better at filling in details. But this only scratches the surface of the book and probably feels disjointed to people who haven’t read it. It also doesn’t help that Lynch is … well … Lynch and therefore puts his stamp on some of the scenes. For example, in the book, the Harkonnens capture the Atreides Mentat (or intelligence officer). They give him a poison and tell him that if he disobeys them they will stop giving him his daily dose of the antidote. In the movie, Lynch has the antidote present in a cat’s milk. He tells the officer each day he must milk the cat and drink the milk to stay alive. That’s messed up.

    The Sci-Fi channel mini-series was much much closer to the book. It was pretty faithful. But because it was done on a television show’s budget it just didn’t feel big enough for the story. I can remember being pleased that it captured Herbert’s vision but bummed that it wasn’t grander in scope.

    As for Jodorowsky, I had heard only rumors about his Dune and was thrilled to finally see this documentary. I don’t need to pile on about his narcissism or his insanity; you guys did that just fine. While I agree that the concept art looks fantastic and that it would probably be visually spectacular, my guess is if I saw it I would be saying ‘why call that Dune?’ It just feels like he would take more liberties with the book than Lynch did.

    I will reiterate that the first book is a treasure, one of those books I reread every 5 years or so. I have reread the second book (Dune Messiah) a couple of times because it is a decent sequel. But the latter books in the run are just rough, especially the last book. And, I believe I am wise in this, I have stayed away from Herbert’s son’s prequel novels. Brrrr ….

    Great show.


  2. Like Anj, I have a history with Dune, but also a history with Jodorowsky. If I’m late to the podcast, it’s that I wanted to watch the documentary before listening, and I had a friend who insisted on my waiting for him before doing so. The podcast made me fast track that event. Watched it last night.

    I’ve read Dune three times, I think, and I’m not a rereader – too much to read to go back easily. The first time, I was probably 13, very close to the Lynch film coming out. I think a lot of the book went over my head then. The movie was terrible. Incomprehensible, ugly and taking not just too many liberties, but the WRONG liberties. My poor mom took us across the border to the U.S. to see it, and her estimation was “well it had nice special effects”, which is what she said of any film she didn’t understand, but didn’t want to admit she didn’t like. We were too heartbroken to tell her we hated it too, after the trouble she’d gone to to let us see it.

    Cut to my my late 20s. Read it again, Put it back on the shelf. Then a few years later, the Sci-Fi mini-series comes out, and I thought yes, finally, give or take some very weird costumes, THIS WAS DUNE. It was textured, it felt complete and faithful to the original, and yet mainstream enough to be comprehensible. I love that thing (the follow-up, Children of Dune, which combines Messiah and Children, but not Godfather, isn’t as great, but still interesting). I loved it, and it made me reread the book and this time, I went through several books, not just the first. Now I can say I’m a fan of the book and would, yes, read it again some time.

    Now for Jodorowsky… While I was in college, I was friends with several visual arts professors. One of these had made his studies in cinema, though he taught photography. He was a major Jorosowsky fan and lent me a number of things from him and other directors (Greenaway, Ferrara, banned films like 120 Days of Ghomorra…).So I watched Holy Mountain on a bootleg tape copied from the Japanese laserdisc, with white spots covering all the pubic hair. Brain trip.

    Today, I own all his films in a boxed set and have seen all of them. Fando y Lys (the black and white one) is unwatchable surrealism. El Topo and Holy Mountain are both Buddhist fables (so Frank’s Italian theory doesn’t track, especially HM). El Topo is a western in which the gunman is Jesus and Buddha combined. Holy Mountain is an allegory about the enlightenment of the soul. These are visually brilliant films, made with small means (I still don’t know how he made much of Holy Mountain). After the failure of Dune, he became a guru as well as a comics writer (and my college days had him on the shelves and in Dark Horse Presents, usually paired with Moebius).

    I can totally believe the early 70s made cult hits of Holy Mountain and such. Have you seen Tommy?! That was 1975 and is VERY VERY Jororowsky in format and style. I think his Dune would have succeeded the same way Tommy did, as “the movie based on Pink Floyd’s music”. The absurdity of the making of of this film that was never made, is that they shopped it in Hollywood at all. It’s an art picture, it’s a trippy animated film, but it’s not a Hollywood picture. If anything, the documentary shows the studio system is a limiter of imagination and vision – there’s no way Jodorowsky would have been able to compromise with a studio on ANYTHING. He’s a representative of art for art’s sake. Hollywood isn’t about that.

    Jodorowsky’s a huge ego, but there’s nothing I respect more than artistic passion, and I found that the documentary fed my own. Jodorowsky is quite a character, and his genius was thinking anything was possible and in the transformational power of art. You guys are way to cynical about this, Today, art seems to be in complete service to the almighty dollar, but there was a time when you could do art for art’s sake, and could be successful at it so that $$$ wasn’t an issue. I think you let your turn-off to Jodorowsky’s personality throw everything you know about auteur theory out the window. Suddenly, the writer isn’t important, only the artist. None of these guys would have done this work or gone on to do other things you like if he hadn’t brought them together and fed them his story. The fact he says he did something doesn’t invalidate all the bits of interview where he pays respect to the genius of his collaborators.

    Ultimately, I love narratives about failed films – Hearts of Darkness, The Battle for Brazil, the making of Happy Together (all must sees) – and usually, making those films was a nightmare BECAUSE the director was unreasonable to the point of irrationality. The difficult birth of Apocalypse Now, Brazil, etc. – and here the abortion that was Dune – show tortured genius at work, and people putting everything on the line for their art. Not for their PRODUCT, readers of 2015, for their ART. And that speaks to me.


  3. On later chatter…

    So this is a podcast where David Spade gets a positive comment, but Jodorowsky doesn’t. Ok.

    Alexander Siddig was in Syriana yes – and I agree, so borrrrring… the attempt at doing Crash or Babel with Middle East politics feels like a frickin’ pol-sci lecture. Siddig’s been in tons of things, from 24 and MI-5 to Da Vinci’s Demons and Primeval. He’s currently appearing in Game of Thrones as Doran Martell.

    If you’re going to make a ridiculous Ghost Rider movie with Nick Cage, go for it 100%. That’s why Spirit of Vengeance is better than the first one, Frank’s right. Blazing crane!


  4. We will definitely address your main comment in an upcoming podcast. As for this one….nobody said anything good about David Spade. I was just pointing out that Shrek looks so much like Farley. And Spade was always his movie sidekick, so I TOTALLY bet in the pre Mike Meyers Shrek, Spade was the fucking donkey. For better or worse (probably worse).


  5. I just watched the 45 minutes of deleted scenes on the DVD, and it addresses several of your points and mine. In particular, he makes it clear he never meant to make Dune profitable and meditates on how industry is the enemy of art – theaters, celebrity, the need to make things “entertaining” are various illnesses of the medium because they are anathema to the needs of art. He sees the Internet as a door for artists because it throws off the shackles of theaters, and cites the omitted element about the film’s insane length that he suggested it could be chopped into parts, common practice today, just not then.

    Sorry to pile on, but I thought these pretty interesting additions to help fill out the context.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah, I agree with a lot of that, but a lot of it is horseshit, too. When your ego gets a project cancelled and people who uprooted their families are out of jobs and you’ve ruined your child’s life you cross from artist to eccentric, self absorbed asshole.

    As a former art major, Potato/patAhto, I suppose.



  7. We do have to take it in context too. This is a man who made unlicensed films in Mexico. He was told he couldn’t do it, and did it anyway, and had some measure of success doing it. Before that, he’d spent his life putting up plays that incensed the country’s powerful censors. In 1975, he must have felt invincible. And if he got the good will of all those disparate people, from Frank Herbert to Dali to Moebius, Mick Jagger, Carradine and Welles… nothing was disabusing him of his capacity to make this thing happen. This is not a men bred by the studio system, not even a man who knew anything about it. He assembled a team of mostly outsiders, people who didn’t work in movies at all, and those who were Hollywood insiders seemed to believe in the project.

    So as a man who never faced any real consequences after doing what he was told he couldn’t do, and who wasn’t really aware of the realities of the system at the larger-budget end of things, it must have been shocking. He set out to change the world – it’s not so much that he wants to create art, but that he wants to make films that are “sacred text” – and he did. He changed his own personal world. His first failure, so to speak, forced him to reinvent himself.

    Was it reasonable to expect Hollywood to give him carte blanche? Not at all! No way! I can’t even believe he was THAT sheltered from the truth. And so I think the non-achievement achievement of his Dune is a testament to ambition. That if you dream big, something’ll come of it even if you (perhaps inevitably) fail.


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